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When four youngsters decide to play their favorite game in a real dungeon they figured that it would be the ultimate adventure. Little did they know what would happen when fantasy becomes reality and they are thrust into their imaginary world when the dangers are real. Now the question is - how do they get back alive?
Suddenly all four candles blew out, plunging the room into total darkness. Kathy wasn't the only one who screamed.
" Light the candle!" Kathy yelled.
" I'm trying," said Michael, " you must have knocked the matches on the floor when the lights went out."
" Well, hurry up!"
" Wait a minute, said Brent, " I hear something."
" First find the matches, said Jason " then listen!"
Suddenly the door crashed open and a short figure burst in, tripped over Michael who was crawling around on the floor, and crashed into the table, smashing it to bits. Everyone screamed except Michael, who had gotten the wind knocked out of him and lay sprawled on the floor.
Before anyone could recover, a burning torch was thrust into the room and a tall figure, holding a menacing sword in his other hand, entered the room, stepped on Michael, and jumped back as if he had stepped on a snake. There were the appropriate screams again.
" Stand fast, all of you," the man yelled. "Simon, are you alright?"
The figure in the middle of the demolished table moved a little and groaned.
" I have got to get out of this line of work. My body just can't take it anymore."
" Don't kill us!" cried Jason " Please, please, please! We're sorry. . ."
The man thrust the torch at Jason for a better look and the young boy threw himself back against the wall.
" It's a boy!" said the man.
" Of course it's a boy and you've scared him to death."
The voice came from a slender figure in a light gray robe that stood in the doorway. It was only when it stepped into the room and pulled back the hood of its cloak and the long blonde hair cascaded out that they realized it was a young woman.
The man swung the torch around and eyed Brent and Kathy.
" They're all children!"
" I'm a child too" said Michael from the floor " and you're standing on my hand!"
Once again the man jumped back and Michael took the opportunity to carefully get to his feet and find a neutral corner of the room.
" What would children be doing down here?" said Simon, suspiciously, as he stood up, " There's many a beast that can change it's shape when your back is turned."
The man went into a defensive stance and suddenly the sword was menacing again. Jason dropped to his knees crying.
"Please don't kill me . . ."
" Stormhawk, in the name of the gods, don't be a fool. They're children!" cried the woman.
The room was suddenly filled with talking as all four children tried to reinforce what the young woman had just said. When he could take it no more Stormhawk threw up his arms.
" Quiet, all of you! If we haven't awakened every monster in this part of the dungeon it isn't because you aren't trying."
" Good idea, Stormhawk" said Simon, recovering his sword and helmet, " Might be a trick to warn the others of their kind. I say let's kill them and be done with it."
The room filled with noise again as the children, in unison, gathered around Simon and tried to convince him what a bad idea that would be.
" Shut up and get away from me!" cried Simon as he turned to Stormhawk " It's your quest, what do we do?"
" It's simple " interrupted the woman " we get Darius to cast a spell. He can see through any shape-changer imaginable."
" I was wondering when any of you would think of that, Vestra"
The voice came from a tall, dark figure that now filled the doorway. As he stepped into the room the gold embroidery on his blood red robes seemed to shimmer in the torchlight. His dark hair and beard were neatly trimmed and the measured steps he took as he looked the kids over showed he was the most learned of the party.
" Get them all together," said Darius " I don't want to have to do this more than once."
Simon prodded Jason with the tip of his short sword.
" You, over there with the others."
" Please, please, don't kill us. . ."
" Yeah, yeah, just shut up and get over there, said Simon who was actually hoping they were shape changers because he couldn't take much more of this, no matter what.
As Jason and the others cowered in the corner Darius closed is eyes and silently moved his lips. When he opened his eyes Kathy screamed despite herself. Darius' eyes were completely white, with just a thin band of ebony running down the middle of each one.
" Cool" said Michael
" Cool?" said Brent " These guys want to kill us and you think that's cool?"
" We'll be alright, said Michael " we're not shape-changers so they can't kill us."
" Don't be too sure of that," said Simon
Darius blinked and his eyes were back to normal.
" He's right" he said, " They're not shape changers. And whatever they are, they're lawful good too."
The four children breathed a collective sigh of relief, but Simon was hardly satisfied.
" That still doesn't tell us who they are and what they're doing here."
" A valid question" said Darius suspiciously. But Vestra smiled and came over to the children who willingly gathered around the only friendly face in the room.
" So, you've heard the others. Just who are you, and what are you doing here?"
Suddenly everyone was trying to answer the question at the same time and Simon threw up his hands in disgust, but Vestra gently calmed and quieted them.
" One at a time, please" she said softly as she smiled at Kathy.
" We're staying in the hotel upstairs. We thought it would be neat to play Dungeons & Dragons down here. Tim said it was deserted, so we didn't think we would be bothering anyone."
" Who's Tim?" asked Simon.
" What's a hotel?" asked Stormhawk.
" You know," said Brent, " the castle."
" What castle?" said Simon, suspiciously " The only castle around here is the one above us and it's been in ruins for three hundred years. Since the fall of Camelot."
" Wait a minute, said Michael, stepping out of the corner. " They called you Stormhawk."
" It's my name, so what?" said the fighter.
" And you're Simon"
" So what?"
" And you're Darius."
Suddenly Kathy understood what Michael was getting at. She looked up at the young woman in the gray robes that stood before her.
" And you're Vestra . . ."
The young woman nodded. Michael turned to Brent and Jason.
" Don't you get it?"
" Yeah," said Jason with a smile. He walked boldly over to Simon who backed away a step. " You're Simon!"
" I said that already, so what?"
" You're a gnome thief. Your race lives in earthen burrows, you're resistant to magic and poisons, and you like jewelry."
" And I'll run you through if you don't get away from me."
Suddenly Brent smiled and walked towards Stormhawk who found himself backed into a corner.
" You're Stormhawk! You're a lawful good fighter, you're an expert with a bow, but you prefer the sword of sharpness that you carry. You're not all that bright, but you're strong, brave, and loyal to the party."
" Not bright?" stammered the fighter.
" He's got you there" said Darius with a thin smile.
Michael turned to him.
" And you're Darius. You're a high level cleric in the service of Nike, the war goddess. That's why you always wear red. The staff that you hold can bring people back to life, but you use it sparingly because there isn't that much strength left in it. You got it when your party defeated a red dragon in the mountains of Cragamore."
Darius' eyes narrowed and he stared hard at Michael and then looked over at Stormhawk who just shrugged.
" And you're Vestra" said Kathy softly, " You're an elf magic user who worships Athena, that's why the gray robes. The rings on your hands are for protection, except for this one that shoots fireballs at your enemies on command."
Now it was Vestra's turn to be surprised. As Stormhawk and the others looked at each other nervously Michael stepped into the center of the room.
" Don't you get it?" he said " you're our characters. We made you up. You're not real."
" That's right, said Brent, " this has got to be a dream." He began pinching his arm - hard. "Comon, Brent, time to wake up."
Simon stepped forward and brought the tip of his sword up under Michael's chin. The young boy tried to escape the blade by raising his head but by now Simon had Michael on his toes and the blade was still under his chin.
" Would you like me to test this idea you have that I'm not real?"
"Simon, no!" cried Vestra.
Brent continued to pinch even harder now.
" Comon, Brent, wake up, it's time to go home."
" Well, what should we do?" yelled Simon, lowering his sword. Michael took the opportunity to retreat to his own corner. " Something's going on. They know too much!"
" We take them along with us until we can figure this out," said Vestra.
" What!" cried Simon?
" You can't be serious, said Stormhawk.
" Well we can't just leave them here, said Vestra " You know what's out there. You might as well go ahead and kill them now."
" Bad idea!" said Michael from his corner "Very, very bad idea."
Both Stormhawk and Simon turned to him.
" Shut up!" they yelled.
Darius held up his hand.
" Vestra's right, we can't leave them here and, as much as Simon would like to, we can't kill them either. We could stand here and try to make sense of this but you know as well as I do that, with all the racket we made, something's bound to be tracking us."
" I have a suggestion, said Michael " Why not let us go back upstairs and we'll leave you alone."
" Upstairs!" yelled Stormhawk, " Can't you get it through your thick heads, there is no upstairs. I don't know where you think you are, but this isn't it! You want to go out there by yourselves? Fine! But let me tell you, we killed a party of bugbears not more than an hour ago who would have found you very tasty."
" Darius is right, said Vestra, " we take them with us. I'll take the girl with me and each of you can take one.
" I'm with Darius, said Michael proudly as he stepped next to the cleric.
" I've got Stormhawk, said Brent.
Jason smiled and looked over at Simon who raised his sword.
" Don't even think about it."
" If you've got any things you want to take with you, you'd better get them now." said Darius " We won't be coming back."
As the kids scrambled around in the rubble, gathering their things, Simon stood back and shook his head.
" I don't suppose you have anything to eat there, do you?"
" Oh sure" said Jason, grabbing a sandwich from their bag, unwrapping it, and handing it to his new guardian.
Simon sniffed the sandwich suspiciously, took a small bite, and made a face.
" I don't think this meat's any good. What is it?"
Jason took the sandwich back and opened it.
" Bologna" he said, handing the sandwich back " And it's alright. That's the way it's supposed to taste."
Simon studied the sandwich for a minute, took another tentative bite, and shook his head.
" In all my years I've never killed a Bologna, let alone eaten one. What kind of animal is it?"
Jason looked up from his knees and smiled.
" It's, well ... oh never mind. I'll try to explain it when we have more time."
Stormhawk stared at Simon and his sandwich as they left. The gnome held it up to him.
" Well it is terrible" he said, " You want a bite?"